BOOKS: Charles Stross, Glasshouse

I liked it.
I probably could have picked a better first book to be introduced to award-winning author Charles Stross, but Glasshouse was still a fun and compelling story touching on everything from gender identity to consciousness and the psychology of prison life.
The novel follows the tribulations of Robin, a man in the 27th century who signs up for a mysterious historical reenactment of early 21st century life. Once inside the experiment, Robin transforms into "Reeve," a woman, who takes a job as a librarian and gradually learns that the "Glasshouse" and his/her previous life wasn't really all that it seems ...
Science fiction fans will get a kick out of the book's many evil experimenters, angry and disoriented clones (well, sort of clones), four-armed women, vapid zombies and ass-kicking librarians.
What most impressed me about the book, however, was Stross' ability to weave several detailed plot lines into the novel's bigger background universe.
There are action-packed wars, horrific genocides and dull board room meetings -- all of which are parsed out and explored as characters change bodies, reconstruct themselves in "A-gates" and stumble upon dormant memories.
These awakened memories lead to some of the most compelling sub-plots in the novel and help paint broader strokes over the characters we witness in Glasshouse.
Ultimately, Stross' method of storytelling allows Glasshouse to be many things -- part speculative fiction, part mystery and part social criticism -- but the novel never feels disjointed or heavy handed.
It's to Stross' credit as a writer that he is able to meld all these potentially messy genres together in Glasshouse, bringing the tale to a somewhat abrupt, but ultimately satisfying, conclusion.


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